Visualearth is a script which will generate an image of the world as it currently looks from space. OK, it's not completely accurate, but it's good enough for a dynamic desktop wallpaper. Initially inspired by World Sunlight Map by


You will need mercurial, curl, imagemagick, xplanet, and perl. If you're using a system with apt as the package manager, such a Debian or Ubuntu, the following command should suffice:

sudo apt-get install mercurial curl imagemagick xplanet perl libwww-perl


First you need to check out the repo. Navigate to wherever you want to repo to be.

hg clone ssh://
cd visualearth

In order to get it all working, simply run ./, which will download all the appropriate images used. You only need to do this once, and it will fetch about 22 MiB of data.


To generate the image, run ./ This will generate the final image and save it to render/earth.jpg. You can use this image as your desktop background or whatever else you can think of.


The generated image is based on current solar position, cloud data, and the month. This means the image will be different depending on when you generate it. To set up automatic generation every 5 minutes, simply add an entry like this to your crontab, chaging username and path:

*/5  *    * * *   yourusername    cd /path/to/visualearth/ && ./

If you're using it as a desktop wallpaper, make sure your OS updates the image on change. For my personal computer, I have it set up as a slideshow taken from the render folder.

Advanced Usage accepts the following options:

        Causes the script to make a timestamped copy of the generated image
        Sets the final size of the generated image


The clouds fetched by are updated once per day. For more real-time clouds, you should subscribe to XplanetClouds. Currently my script do not support this out of the box, as I don't have a subscription. However, it would not be hard to change the cloud script to support it. Merge requests welcome.



Related Projects

  • planetdesk seems to be a project very similar to this. I have not tried it though, but it may be relevant to your interests.